Updated: Oct 20
By Rebekah Saum - YouthHOPE
In March of 2016, Ends Cycling hosted 2 Key West Bike Rides that benefited the youth of Zimbabwe and Malawi. Over those 2 weeks 40 cyclists and 23 support staff prayed, pedaled and served their way from Fort Myers, FL to Key West, FL. Three and a half years later, the effort they put forth on those tours is still making an impact on the youth in Zimbabwe...
Tim stood at the top of the stairs overlooking the pool while his wife (both trained lifeguards) and I stood beside the pool all watching the students like hawks. Twenty-two high school students from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and the surrounding villages had come to the lodge for a Youth Leadership Academy event hosted by YouthHOPE and the graduates of their School of Youth Ministry Trainers program. Many of these teenagers had never been in a pool before and they flopped around and dove under the water with such glee that you couldn’t help but smile.
They had earned this much needed break. It was well over 100 degrees and they had worked hard all day thinking through what it meant to be God’s valuable creation and a vital part of his family. They had also learned many new leadership principles and discussed how to apply them to their current context. After all that work, they were excited for some downtime at the pool. After working up their appetite they scarfed down dinner, spent time in worship and then decided to go back to their rooms to study scripture together. It was beautiful to see these young people’s commitment to community and scripture.
The next day they broke into groups to develop a plan for a service project they would implement after the training. They started by doing a personal inventory of their own gifts, talents, and passions. Then they worked together to design a project that would allow their entire group to use their gifts and talents for the good of those around them. The projects they came up with were really impressive! One group realized that many of them had musical or theatrical talents so they decided to organize a talent show at their school to raise money to benefit the elderly in their community. Another group recognized the growing interest in drugs and alcohol among their peers. So they decided to organize awareness campaigns and invite professionals to come and address their peers.
Watching the students develop their service projects is always my favorite part of the Youth Leadership Academy. I love seeing all that young people are capable of, but more than that, I love watching them discover what they are capable of. They said things like:
“I realize now that I can use my talents and gifts to help meet needs in my community.”
“I feel excited to be able to use my own ideas rather than just being told what to do."
"I feel special and important because I have been trusted to do this."
The YouthHOPE team and the local leaders will be following up with these students to guide them and then hear the stories of what God has done through them. The Youth Leadership Academy at Victoria Falls and the lasting impact it will have on these students and their community wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Ends of the Earth Cycling community. Thank you for investing in the lives of Global Youth.